Wednesday, November 7, 2007

An Epigraph is Worth 12,000 Words?

As I'm working on academic papers, I like to write under a few tentative epigraphs--sometimes I leave them in or replace them after I have written the chapter, sometimes I just take them out in the revision process. I'm currently about a dozen pages into the last chapter of my dissertation, which I will very loosely describe as "about Hawthorne's ethics," and these are the four tentative epigraphs at the top of my paper:
  1. "His state/Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,/And post o'er land and ocean without rest;/They also serve who only stand and wait." (Milton, "On His Blindness")
  2. "Silence is the only voice of our God." (Melville, Pierre)
  3. "It is when from the innermost depths of our being we need a sound which does mean something--when we cry out for an answer and it is not given us--it is then that we touch the silence of God." (Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace)
  4. "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls, and whispered in the sounds of silence." (Simon and Garfunkel)

And with epigraphs like these, I'm thinking--who needs a chapter???

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